Critter Lovers

State lawmakers just can't say no

Bestiality is generally considered a bad thing, but the Missouri Senate takes the state slogan seriously: Sure, sexual activity with a llama may sound like behavior worthy of discouragement, but I'm from Missouri, so you'll have to show me.

For the past two years, Rep. Catherine Hanaway (R-Warson Woods) and Rep. Kate Hollingsworth (D-Imperial) have failed to show the Senate just how unlawful mounting a monkey should be. Failure to pass an anti-bestiality bill was just one of the many numbskull nonachievements you can hang on the General Assembly this session. Yes, maybe that's why a Missouri dog has that worried look on her face when her master comes home drunk: The law is not on her side.

As with many cutting-edge social issues, the weekly tabloid you hold in your hands was instrumental in pushing this controversial cause to the forefront. "The Riverfront Times kind of started it all," Hanaway says. "Kate Hollingsworth and I both had constituents who read the Riverfront Times article and contacted us and urged us to sponsor the legislation."

That article [Melinda Roth, "All Opposed, Say 'Neigh'" RFT, Dec. 15, 1999] dealt with a British documentary, Hidden Love: Animal Passions that featured a Carl Junction, Mo., man who gave new meaning to the term "riding a horse." He claimed his horse, Pixel, as his wife, and the documentary showed him in flagrante delicto, doing the interspecies-intercourse thing. A review of the televised documentary in London's Evening Standard stated, "In Missouri, you can not only take your poodle to the opera, you can buy it a negligee and indulge in some no-nonsense beef-bayoneting afterwards, without fearing a knock on the bedroom door from disapproving authorities."

That still holds true, despite the efforts of Hanaway and Hollingsworth. Last year, Hollingsworth sponsored the bill; this year, it was Hanaway. She attached it to three different bills -- legislation dealing with agriculture, crime and sexual assaults on elderly persons or prison inmates. Sen. Morris Westfall (R-Halfway), a livestock farmer from the Ozarks, bumped the amendment off the agriculture bill. "It wasn't germane for the ag bill; that could have gotten into constitutional problems," says Westfall aide David Leek. "Then it was in a crime bill that never got up to bat on the Senate floor, although the committee dropped several pieces of that to get it smaller, and that was one of the pieces that the committee dropped."

Meanwhile, Westfall, who is back at his ranch, has expressed concern that animal-rights zealots could attempt to prevent such veterinary practices as the collection of semen from bulls and artificial insemination of cows by using an anti-bestiality law to block livestock breeding. Just how does Westfall think the vet collects the semen -- by taking the bull to dinner and a movie before going back to the barn? Westfall's concerns baffle Hanaway; her bill specifically states that "generally accepted animal husbandry practices or generally accepted veterinary medical practices" would not be prohibited.

"We've been successful in amending it onto several bills in the House, but when it gets to the Senate, it gets stripped out," says Hanaway. "We're just going to have to keep trying, but it's almost getting to the point where it won't pass until Morris Westfall gets term-limited out."

Hollingsworth says concerns about livestock breeding or harassment of veterinarians could have been resolved: "That's day-to-day work. That's the work of making laws, working out compromises and listening to concerns. I would not want to knowingly hurt someone in how they make their living. It went over to the Senate in February, and they sat on it -- and there is no reason for it, absolutely none."

With Westfall axing the bestiality amendment from the agriculture bill and its being thrown overboard from the 115-page Omnibus Crime Bill, the only chance it had of making it into law was inclusion in a bill sponsored by Sen. Betty Sims (R-Ladue) that increased punishment for sexual assaults on the elderly and prison inmates. But it appears Sims didn't want to be questioned about the amendment, so it was jettisoned.

"She's a refined woman," says Hanaway of Sims. "She doesn't want to get up and talk about sex and animals." Sims admits she didn't want to debate the topic on the floor but says the main reason she wanted to kill the amendment was that she believes sexual abuse of the elderly and bestiality aren't the same subject matter.

Hanaway hopes that next time, political support of the bill will outweigh the skittishness of senators: "I don't think Betty really realized how much support it has from animal-rights activists. That's what always made it a strange bill for me. It's the one thing that the animal-rights activists and the Christian Right both support. You don't get that too often."

Iowa just passed an anti-bestiality bill. In Illinois, a bill has passed the House; although it's without a sponsor in the Senate, it could pass in the fall session. About half the states have bestiality laws. Missouri had one until the 1970s, when changes in the criminal code inadvertently led to the ban's being dropped.

Ledy VanKavage of the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says media coverage in February of an incident in Waterloo helped the cause in Iowa: Hawkeye Community College students found a negligee next to a ewe and a naked man hiding behind nearby hay bales.

Of course, the Internet has brought all the sexual deviants out of the stable. Web sites and chat rooms facilitate the buggery, proving that all the embraceable ewes aren't in Iowa. Backers of bestiality bills sent chat-room samples to VanKavage, she says: "They sent me an e-mail they had received after being in one of these chat rooms saying, 'Come to Sedalia. We're having a party on this date; here are the directions to my barn. I have two bitch dogs, a donkey and a llama to sexually assault. Bring your own animal, but be cool in town, because they don't know what I'm into.'"

Apparently, even if the townsfolk are from Missouri, you don't have to show them.

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